Polar Willow

Salix polaris Wahlenb. ^ (= S. pseudopolaris Flod).

Leaves: W" to long, oval to rounded, both surfaces smooth and glossy, bright green to slightly paler beneath.

Catkins: to 1 4" long, developing with the leaves.

Polar willow is a small dwarf plant usually forming loose mats 1" to 2" tall, the slender branches often buried in moss or soil. it may grow so entangled among other dwarf plants that it effectively blends into the vegetation.

There are only scattered records for least willow and polar willow in the Aleutians (Hulten 1960, Viereck and Little 1972, ALA Collections, C. Parker, pers. comm.). With more searching, we may find more localities for these evasive dwarfs.

Male catkin

Arctic Willow, Ground Willow

Salix arctica Pall.

Male catkin

Arctic Willow, Ground Willow

Salix arctica Pall.

Leaves: Size and shape extremely diverse, 3/4" to nearly 3" long. Leaves generally rounded, varying from ob-ovate to elliptic. Upper surface dark green and shiny, under surface pale green. Margins entire (not toothed). Young leaves often villose, later becoming glabrous (hairless); mature leaves often bearded, with long hairs extending beyond the leaf tip.

Female catkin

Catkins: Tall and erect, 1" to 4" long, much longer than the other dwarf willow catkins. Note the tiny red stigmas that look like bird's feet on the female catkin in the photograph.

The Arctic willow is extremely variable in form and thrives in a diversity of habitats, from moist meadows to rocky alpine tundra The low-growing gnarled branches crawl over the ground and often form dense mats, but in protected places the branches may stand 12" high or more. It is suspected to hybridize not only with other dwarf willows but also with some shrub species such as S. glauca and S. barclayi.

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